"Oh, papal it is not that," Amelia cried out, falling on his neck and kissing him many times. "You are always good and kind. You did it for the best. It is not for the money — it is — my God! my God! have mercy upon me, and give me strength to bear this trial"; and she kissed him again wildly and went away.
Still the father did not know what that explanation meant, and the burst of anguish with which the poor girl left him. It was that she was conquered. The sentence was passed. The child must go from her — to others — to forget her. Her heart and her treasure — her joy, hope, love, worship — her God, almost! She must give him up, and then — and then she would go to George, and they would watch over the child and wait for him until he came to them in Heaven.
She put on her bonnet, scarcely knowing what she did, and went out to walk in the lanes by which George used to come back from school, and where she was in the habit of going on his return to meet the boy. It was May, a half-holiday. The leaves were all coming out, the weather was brilliant; the boy came running to her flushed with health, singing, his bundle of school-books hanging by a thong. There he was. Both her arms were round him. No, it was impossible. They could not be going to part. "What is the matter, Mother?" said he; "you look very pale."
"Nothing, my child," she said and stooped down and kissed him.
That night Amelia made the boy read the story of Samuel to her, and how Hannah, his mother, having weaned him, brought him to Eli the High Priest to minister before the Lord. And he read the song of gratitude which Hannah sang, and which says, who it is who maketh poor and maketh rich, and bringeth low and exalteth — how the poor shall be raised up out of the dust, and how, in his own might, no man shall be strong. Then he read how Samuel's mother made him a little coat and brought it to him from year to year when she came up to offer the yearly sacrifice. And then, in her sweet simple way, George's mother made commentaries to the boy upon this affecting story. How Hannah, though she loved her son so much, yet gave him up because of her vow. And how she must always have thought of him as she sat at home, far away, making the little coat; and Samuel, she was sure, never forgot his mother; and how happy she must have been as the time came (and the years pass away very quick) when she should see her boy and how good and wise he had grown. This little sermon she spoke with a gentle solemn voice, and dry eyes, until she came to the account of their meeting — then the discourse broke off suddenly, the tender heart overflowed, and taking the boy to her breast, she rocked him in her arms and wept silently over him in a sainted agony of tears.
Her mind being made up, the widow began to take such measures as seemed right to her for advancing the end which she proposed. One day, Miss Osborne, in Russell Square (Amelia had not written the name or number of the house for ten years — her youth, her early story came back to her as she wrote the superscription) one day Miss Osborne got a letter from Amelia which made her blush very much and look towards her father, sitting glooming in his place at the other end of the table.
In simple terms, Amelia told her the reasons which had induced her to change her mind respecting her boy. Her father had met with fresh misfortunes which had entirely ruined him. Her own pittance was so small that it would barely enable her to support her parents and would not suffice to give George the advantages which were his due. Great as her sufferings would be at parting with him she would, by God's help, endure them for the boy's sake. She knew that those to whom he was going would do all in their power to make him happy. She described his disposition, such as she fancied it — quick and impatient of control or harshness, easily to be moved by love and kindness. In a postscript, she stipulated that she should have a written agreement, that she should see the child as often as she wished — she could not part with him under any other terms.
"What? Mrs. Pride has come down, has she?" old Osborne said, when with a tremulous eager voice Miss Osborne read him the letter. "Reg'lar starved out, hey? Ha, ha! I knew she would." He tried to keep his dignity and to read his paper as usual — but he could not follow it. He chuckled and swore to himself behind the sheet.
At last he flung it down and, scowling at his daughter, as his wont was, went out of the room into his study adjoining, from whence he presently returned with a key. He flung it to Miss Osborne.
"Get the room over mine — his room that was — ready," he said. "Yes, sir," his daughter replied in a tremble. It was George's room. It had not been opened for more than ten years. Some of his clothes, papers, handkerchiefs, whips and caps, fishing-rods and sporting gear, were still there. An Army list of 1814, with his name written on the cover; a little dictionary he was wont to use in writing; and the Bible his mother had given him, were on the mantelpiece, with a pair of spurs and a dried inkstand covered with the dust of ten years. Ah! since that ink was wet, what days and people had passed away! The writing-book, still on the table, was blotted with his hand.
Miss Osborne was much affected when she first entered this room with the servants under her. She sank quite pale on the little bed. "This is blessed news, m'am — indeed, m'am," the housekeeper said; "and the good old times is returning, m'am. The dear little feller, to be sure, m'am; how happy he will be! But some folks in May Fair, m'am, will owe him a grudge, m'am"; and she clicked back the bolt which held the window-sash and let the air into the chamber.
"You had better send that woman some money," Mr. Osborne said, before he went out. "She shan't want for nothing. Send her a hundred pound."
"And I'll go and see her to-morrow?" Miss Osborne asked.
"That's your look out. She don't come in here, mind. No, by — — — , not for all the money in London. But she mustn't want now. So look out, and get things right." With which brief speeches Mr. Osborne took leave of his daughter and went on his accustomed way into the City.
"Here, Papa, is some money," Amelia said that night, kissing the old man, her father, and putting a bill for a hundred pounds into his hands. "And — and, Mamma, don't be harsh with Georgy. He — he is not going to stop with us long." She could say nothing more, and walked away silently to her room. Let us close it upon her prayers and her sorrow. I think we had best speak little about so much love and grief.
Miss Osborne came the next day, according to the promise contained in her note, and saw Amelia. The meeting between them was friendly. A look and a few words from Miss Osborne showed the poor widow that, with regard to this woman at least, there need be no fear lest she should take the first place in her son's affection. She was cold, sensible, not unkind. The mother had not been so well pleased, perhaps, had the rival been better looking, younger, more affectionate, warmer-hearted. Miss Osborne, on the other hand, thought of old times and memories and could not but be touched with the poor mother's pitiful situation. She was conquered, and laying down her arms, as it were, she humbly submitted. That day they arranged together the preliminaries of the treaty of capitulation.
George was kept from school the next day, and saw his aunt. Amelia left them alone together and went to her room. She was trying the separation — as that poor gentle Lady Jane Grey felt the edge of the axe that was to come down and sever her slender life. Days were passed in parleys, visits, preparations. The widow broke the matter to Georgy with great caution; she looked to see him very much affected by the intelligence. He was rather elated than otherwise, and the poor woman turned sadly away. He bragged about the news that day to the boys at school; told them how he was going to live with his grandpapa his father's father, not the one who comes here sometimes; and that he would be very rich, and have a carriage, and a pony, and go to a much finer school, and when he was rich he would buy Leader's pencil-case and pay the tart-woman. The boy was the image of his father, as his fond mother thought.